By Patrick Neas, The Kansas City Star, January 27, 2023
Michael Stern will bid farewell to the Kansas City Symphony with a stellar season
The Kansas City Symphony’s 2023-2024 season will mark the end of Michael Stern’s 18-year run as music director. What a ride it’s been, and by the looks of next season, Stern is going to take us on one last joyful jaunt.
For the past year, Stern has been missing from the podium, more often than not, as the symphony has been trying out a string of guest conductors in its search for Stern’s replacement. But next season, Stern is once again leading the symphony in many of its concerts. Which is wonderful.
One of the joys of Stern’s tenure has been the way he’s brought all of his friends to Kansas City, and many of them are coming back to celebrate his final season with the symphony. On June 6, 2024, “An Evening With Yo-Yo Ma” will feature the beloved cellist in a tribute to Stern. Bring your hankies.
Violinist Joshua Bell is another friend of Stern’s. He’ll perform Henri Vieuxtemps’ Violin Concerto No. 5 with the orchestra May 31 to June 2. On that program, Bell will also play a collaborative work, “The Elements,” by three of America’s most important contemporary composers: Kevin Puts, Edgar Meyer and Jake Heggie.
Bell isn’t the only violinist making an appearance next season. Jun Iwasaki will perform Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5 from Jan. 26 to 28, and Pamela Frank will be the soloist for Beethoven’s Violin Concerto Feb. 2 to 4.
Superstar pianists lined up next season include Yefim Bronfman on the season opener Oct. 6 to 8, Zhu Wang Nov. 24 to 26, Joyce Yang March 1 to 3 and Jeffrey Kahane April 19 to 21.
During his time here, Stern has developed quite the collaborative relationship with Prairie Village native and international opera star Joyce DiDonato. She’ll be singing Mahler’s “Songs of a Wayfarer” Jan. 12 to 14.
Stern has always been a champion of new music, and next season there’s a lot of it, including works commissioned by the symphony. Like Errollyn Wallen’s Violin Concerto, which will be performed by Philippe Quint March 22 to 24. Another commission is Shelley Washington’s “Both,” on the program Feb. 2 to 4.
The Kansas City Symphony Chorus directed by Charles Bruffy will also have opportunities to shine. Nov. 17 to 19, they’ll sing Arvo Pärt’s “Salve Regina.” The same program will feature two glorious masterpieces by Verdi, his “Stabat Mater” and “Te Deum,” which should provide a nice contrast to Pärt’s sacred minimalism. The chorus will also be featured when the symphony performs Mahler’s “Resurrection” Symphony June 14 to 16.
The season will end with Michael Stern conducting the symphony for the last time as its music director June 21 to 23. The program will include works to show off what a virtuoso ensemble the Kansas City Symphony has become: Mendelssohn’s Overture to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Samuel Barber’s Symphony No. 1 (a nod, I’m sure, to Stern’s love of American music) and the lush, romantic Symphony No. 2 by Sibelius.
Sibelius’s fellow Finnish composer Sulho Santa wrote about the Symphony No. 2, “There is something about this music — at least for us — that leads us to ecstasy; almost like a shaman with his magic drum.”
It’s a fitting finale to Stern’s time in Kansas City. Stern has been our own musical shaman, leading the orchestra to extraordinary levels of excellence and providing audiences with innumerable moments of ecstasy and magic. We will miss him dearly.
All performances at Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. For season tickets and more information, 816-471-0400 or visit kcsymphony.org. You can view the digital season brochure here:
- Oct. 6-8: Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 2, Jessie Montgomery’s Hymn for Everyone and Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra. Yefim Bronfman, piano. Michael Stern, conductor.
- Oct. 27-29: Quinn Mason’s A Joyful Trilogy, Lutosławski’s Concerto for Orchestra, Richard Strauss’ “Don Quixote.” Mark Gibbs, cello. Michael Stern, conductor.
- Nov. 17-19: Arvo Pärt’s “Salve Regina,” Verdi’s “Stabat Mater” and “Te Deum” and Schumann’s Symphony No. 2. Kansas City Symphony Chorus directed by Charles Bruffy. Eduardo Strausser, guest conductor.
- Nov. 24-26: Miguel Farías’ “Retratos Australes,” Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21 and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7. Zhu Wang, piano. Paolo Bortolameolli, guest conductor.
- Jan. 12-14: Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer and a selection from the Rückert-Lieder, Chen Yi’s “Transplanted Seeds,” Ives’ “The Unanswered Question” and Johann Strauss’ Overture to “Die Fledermaus.” Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano. Michael Stern, conductor.
- Jan. 26-28: Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 5. Jun Iwasaki, violin. Guest conductor to be announced.
- Feb. 2-4, 2024: Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, Shelley Washington’s “Both” and Ginastera’s “Variaciones concertantes.” Pamela Frank, violin. Michael Stern, conductor.
- March 1-3: Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Joyce Yang, piano. Michael Stern, conductor.
- March 22-24: Errollyn Wallen’s Violin Concerto, Ravel’s “Le Tombeau de Couperin” and Bolero, Britten’s Four Sea Interludes from “Peter Grimes” and the world premiere of a work by Angel Lam. Philippe Quint, violin. Michael Stern, conductor.
- April 5-7: Xavier Foley, double-bass. Program and guest conductor to be announced.
- April 19-21: Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 “Emperor.” Jeffrey Kahane, piano. Guest conductor to be announced.
- May 31-June 2: Henri Vieuxtemps’ Violin Concerto No. 5, “The Elements” for violin and orchestra by Kevin Puts, Edgar Meyer and Jake Heggie, Guillaume Conneson’s “Flammenschrift,” Haydn’s Symphony No. 59 “Feuersinfonie” (Fire Symphony) and Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloé Suite No. 2. Joshua Bell, violin. Michael Stern, conductor.
- June 14-16: Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection.” Kansas City Symphony Chorus directed by Charles Bruffy. Joelle Harvey, soprano. Kelley O’Connor, mezzo-soprano. Michael Stern, conductor.
- June 21-23: Mendelssohn’s Overture to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Samuel Barber’s Symphony No. 1, Sibelius’ Symphony No. 2. Michael Stern, conductor.
You can reach Patrick Neas at email@example.com and follow his Facebook page, KC Arts Beat, at www.facebook.com/kcartsbeat.
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